Right Guard Grantñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
When the teams lined up on the five-yard line it was Captain Emerson who went back for the try-at-goal. This time, the line holding stoutly, he had no difficulty in placing the ball over the bar, and it was Alton’s turn to celebrate. At last, it seemed, the hoodoo had been broken and Mt. Millard defeated.
There remained, however, more than six minutes of playing time, and much might happen in six minutes. Much did happen, for when, having kicked off to Alton and forced the latter to punt after once gaining her distance, Mt. Millard went back to her bag of tricks. Some of the things she tried were weird and some risky, so risky that only desperation could have counseled them. But too frequently they were successful. A wide formation with both ends on one side of the line and the tackles on the other was good for a twelve-yard gain when the ball was shot obliquely across the field. The runner was spilled before he could get started by Rus Emerson, but twelve yards was enough to move the stakes to a new location. After a plunge at the line, good for two yards, the enemy used the same formation again. But this time a quartering run by a half-back eventuated and was stopped almost at the line. Again Mt. Millard tried a long forward-pass. The receiver was out of position and the ball came back. Faking a punt, the full-back hit the Alton line and went through for eight yards, placing the ball on Alton’s forty-six.
Desperately indeed the visitor waged the attack. Mr. Cade sent in three fresh players; Wilde for Stimson, Kerrison for Emerson and Dakin for Reilly. Mt. Millard had already made several substitutions, one a guard who gave Gordon Renneker a hard battle. Forced to punt at last, Mt. Millard sent the ball over the goal-line, and Alton lined up on the twenty. Here it was that Dakin nearly upset the apple-cart. Plunging at tackle on his own side, he let go of the ball, and it trickled across the field with about every warrior after it. It was Slim who finally fell on it on his own eight yards.
Goodwin, standing astride the goal-line, punted on first down, but the ball went high and short, passing out of bounds at the twenty-six, and from there Mt. Millard started again with unabated determination. Greenwood was replaced by Goodwin. A forward-pass made a scant seven yards for the besiegers. Then, from wide-open formation, came another. This time three backs handled the pigskin before it was finally thrown. It would have scored a touchdown had it been caught, but there were two Alton men on the spot, and the Mt. Millard end had no chance. Then the enemy hustled into kick-formation and Alton breathed a sigh of relief. Even if the enemy secured another field-goal the game would still be Alton’s. Perhaps Mt. Millard had that knowledge in mind, for she didn’t kick, after all. Standing back near the twenty-five-yard streak, Quarterback Marsh poised the ball in the palm of his hand, a tiny motionless figure amidst a maelstrom of rushing forms.
Cries of warning filled the air. Marsh, as if unaware of the enemy plunging down on him, surveyed the field. Then, just as Billy Wells bore down with arms upstretched, Marsh side-stepped easily and threw to where, beyond the goal-line, a Mt. Millard end was wheeling into position. Scarcely above the finger-tips of the leaping Alton players sped the oval, fast and straight. The Mt. Millard end ran forward a step, poised for the catch. And then Nemesis in the shape of Slim Staples took a hand. Slim, crashing off a goal-post, staggered into the path of the ball, leaped upward and closed his hands about it. Then he went down into a sea of massing players and a whistle blew shrilly.
The game was over and Alton had won it, 7 to 3. Mt. Millard had staked all on that final play and lost, but there was more honor accruing from that heroic attempt than would have been hers had she secured that field-goal. Defeated but far from disheartened, the tiny quarterback summoned his teammates and cheered heartily if hoarsely for the victors. And Alton, returning the cheer with no more breath than the losers, paid homage to a gallant foe.
Slim emerged from that contest something of a hero and with his right and title to the left end position unassailable. Smedley emerged less fortunately, for he had wrenched a knee so badly that his future use to the team was more than doubtful. There were many other injuries, but none serious. Alton was joyous over having at last won a game from the enemy, but by the next day she was weighing the pros and cons and unwillingly reaching the conclusion that, on the whole, the Gray-and-Gold had a long way to go before she would be in position to face Kenly Hall with better than a one to two chance of winning. There were plenty who stated emphatically that Mt. Millard should have had that game, basing their contention on the more varied and brilliant attack of the visitor. But there were plenty of others who stoutly held that the better team had won, just as the better team does win ninety-nine times in a hundred, and that even allowing Mt. Millard less weight and a far more dazzling and puzzling offense Alton had been there with the good old straight football stuff that wins games. That Mr. Cade was satisfied with the team’s showing is very doubtful, but then coaches are like that. They never are satisfied quite. Johnny didn’t say anything to lead any one to think he was not content. That was the trouble. He said too little. Those veterans who knew him well understood perfectly that Johnny Cade was not mentally shaking hands with himself!
AN EVENING CALL
That evening Slim, with his hand prettily painted with iodine, had an engagement that excluded Leonard, and the latter, having no liking for a Saturday evening alone, called up Johnny McGrath on the telephone, found that that youth was to be at home and then walked over to 102 Melrose avenue.
Not only Johnny, but most of Johnny’s family was at home, and Leonard was introduced to Mrs. McGrath and Mr. McGrath and young Cullen; Johnny’s elder brother was married and lived elsewhere. Leonard liked Mr. and Mrs. McGrath instantly. They were just what they seemed – and vice versa – a thoroughly nice, warm-hearted couple, uncultured but wise and shrewd and well-mannered. Perhaps Leonard took to them the more readily because they made him see at once that they were ready and even anxious to like him. Although Leonard couldn’t know it, Johnny had spoken frequently of him, and any one approved of by Johnny was bound to be welcomed by Johnny’s parents. And, another thing that Leonard didn’t know, even if he suspected it later, very few of Johnny’s school acquaintances ever came to his home.
Leonard wasn’t filled with instant liking for Cullen, for the younger brother was at the difficult age of thirteen and was long of leg and awkward of speech and movement, a freckle-faced youngster who, knowing of the visitor’s connection with the Alton football team, viewed him with piercing intentness and at intervals broke into the general conversation with startlingly inopportune questions. Leonard wasn’t quite at his ease until, after a half-hour downstairs, Johnny conveyed him up to his room on the third floor, sternly forbidding the ready Cullen to follow.
That room was quite wonderful, Leonard thought, comparing it to his own small room at home. It was very large, fully twenty feet square, with four big windows framed in gay cretonne and white muslin, two huge closets and book-shelves that went all across one wall. Those shelves made a great hit with the visitor. They were just elbow-high and they had no pesky glass doors in front of them. You could take a book out without the least effort, and you could lay it on top of the shelves and look at it if you didn’t want to carry it to a chair. And that was just what Leonard was doing presently. Johnny had more books than the caller had ever seen outside a public library! And such books, too! A full set of the best encyclopedia, all sorts of dictionaries – not only of words, but of places and dates and phrases – and all of Stevenson and Dickens, and Green’s and Prescott’s histories, and the Badminton Library and lots and lots of other books in sets or single volumes. Leonard thought of his own scanty collection of some two-score tomes – many of them reminders of nursery days – and for a moment was very envious. Then envy passed, and he silently determined to some day have a library as big and complete as Johnny’s.
The room was plainly furnished, but everything in it was designed for both comfort and use, a fact that Leonard recognized and that caused him to realize for perhaps the first time that with furniture as with everything else real beauty was founded on usefulness, was intrinsic and not external. Everything in this room was just what it appeared to be. Not a single object masqueraded as something else. Leonard liked it all enormously and said so emphatically, and Johnny was pleased. You could see that.
“I’m glad you like it,” he answered almost gratefully. “Dad let me buy everything myself. I could have got stuff that looked a lot – well, a lot grander, do you mind; things with carved legs and all that sort of flummery; but I sort of like plainer things better.”
Leonard nodded, looking about the big, pleasantly lighted apartment. “So do I,” he agreed, although five minutes ago, had you asked him, he wouldn’t have known! “Some room, McGrath,” he went on approvingly. “And there’s a light just about everywhere, isn’t there?”
It did seem so. There was a plain brass standard by the wicker couch, two smaller hood-shaded lights atop the book-shelves, a hanging bulb over the broad chiffonier, a squat lamp on the big, round table and a funny little blue enameled affair on the stand by the head of the bed. Only the table lamp was lighted, but the soft glow radiated to every corner of the room. Leonard’s gaze went back to the many shelves opposite.
“Did you buy all those books yourself?” he asked.
“Oh, no, only maybe a third of them. The folks gave me the others. They know I’m fond of them. Joe always gives me books at Christmas and my birthday.” He saw the unuttered question in Leonard’s face and smiled as he added: “They always ask me what I want, though, first.”
Leonard got up then and prowled. He looked at the four pictures in plain dark-oak frames: “The Retreat from Moscow”; a quaint print of an elderly man standing before a second-hand bookstall on a Paris quay holding a huge umbrella overhead while, with one volume tucked under an arm, he peered near-sightedly into a second; a photograph of Hadrian’s Tomb and a Dutch etching of a whirling windmill, with bent sedges about a little pool and an old woman bending against the wind.
“I like that one a lot,” explained Johnny. “Can’t you just see – no, I mean feel the wind? I’d like to go to Holland some day. It must be fine, I’m thinking.”
Leonard had a go at the books next, Johnny pulling forth his special treasures for him. After awhile they sat down again and talked, and when, as was to be expected, football came up for discussion, the discussion became animated. Although Johnny didn’t play, he was a keen critic – and a fearless one. “There’s two or three fellows on the team,” he declared after the day’s contest had been gone over, “that would be better for a vacation, to my mind. Put them on the bench for a week, maybe, and they’d come back and earn their keep.”
Leonard wanted to know the names of the gentlemen, but wasn’t sure he ought to ask. Johnny supplied them, however, without urging. “It’s Smedley and Garrick and that big Renneker I’m thinking of,” he explained. “Take Smedley, now, sure he’s a good man, but he don’t ever spit on his hands and get to work, Grant. It’s the same way with the other two, especially Renneker. He’s asleep at the switch half the time.”
“But I thought he played a pretty good game to-day,” objected Leonard.
“He did, but what’s a ‘pretty good game’ for a fellow who’s made the All-Scholastic?” asked Johnny witheringly. “Sure, ’tis no game at all. He has the height of a camel and the weight of a whale, and does he use either intelligently? He does not! I’m no football player, Grant – or should I be calling you General? – but I can see with half an eye, and that one shut, that the lad isn’t earning his salary.”
“He doesn’t get any,” laughed Leonard.
“I know, that was a figure of speech,” answered the other. “Though, by the same token, I’ll bet he’d take the salary if it was offered.”
“You mean – ” Leonard stopped. Then he added: “Slim thinks you maybe made a mistake about Renneker that time.”
“I thought so myself,” responded Johnny. “But this afternoon I got Jimsy Carnochan to go to the game with me. Mind you, I said no word to him about Renneker or Ralston or any one else. I just wanted to see would he notice anything. Well, in the third quarter, when the play was close to where we were sitting, Jimsy said to me, ‘Who’s the big fellow there playing right guard?’ ‘On which team?’ I asked him. ‘On Alton.’ ‘His name’s Gordon Renneker.’ ‘Like fun,’ said Jimsy. ‘If it is my name’s Napoleon Bonaparte! Don’t you mind the fellow that played first base in New Haven last summer for the Maple Leaf team? I’ve forgotten his name, but ’twill come to me.’ ‘Ralston, do you mean?’ I asked him. ‘Ralston! That’s the guy! What’s he calling himself out of his name for now?’ ‘Sure,’ I said, ‘you’re mistaken. There’s a similarity, I’ll acknowledge, but this fellow is Gordon Renneker, a fine lad that got placed on the All-Scholastic Team last year.’ ‘Maybe he was placed on it, whatever it is,’ said Jimsy, ‘and he’s likewise placed in my memory, for the big piece of cheese caught me with my foot off the bag, and I’m not forgetting any guy that does that!’ Well, I told him that he couldn’t be certain, seeing that you’re always reading about people that look so much alike their own mothers can’t tell them apart, maybe; and I minded him of a moving picture play that was here no longer ago than last August where one man takes another man’s place in Parliament and no one knows any different. And finally I said to him: ‘Whatever you may be thinking, Jimsy, keep it to yourself, for if it turned out that you were mistaken you’d feel mighty small, what with getting an innocent fellow into trouble.’ So there’s no fear of Jimsy talking, General.”
Leonard looked perplexed. “It’s awfully funny,” he said finally. “Renneker isn’t at all the sort of fellow you’d think to find playing baseball for money. Look at the clothes he wears, and – and the impression he gives you. Why, he must have plenty of money, McGrath.”
“You’d think so. Still, I mind the time when I had all the good clothes I could get on my back and would have been glad of the chance of picking up a bit of money. Although,” added Johnny, “I don’t think I’d change my name to do it.”
“Well,” said Leonard, shaking his head in puzzlement, “I can’t get it. What’s troubling me, though, is this. Knowing what we do – or suspecting it, rather – ought we to tell some one? I mean Coach Cade or Rus Emerson or faculty.”
“I’m wondering that myself,” said Johnny, frowning. “Maybe it’s no business of mine, though, for I’m not connected with football – ”
“What difference does that make?” Leonard demanded. “You’re an Alton fellow, aren’t you? If what you suspect about Gordon Renneker is true he ought not to be allowed to play for Alton, and as an Alton student – ”
“Sure, that’s true enough,” agreed Johnny ruefully. “I was fearing you’d say that. I’ve said it to myself already.” He grinned across at his guest. After a moment he continued: “There’s this about it, though, General. I’ve no proof, no real proof, I mean. Like I told Jimsy Carnochan, it might be I was mislead by one of those strange resemblances that you read of.”
“Yes,” answered Leonard without conviction. “You might be. I guess you’ll just have to do as you think best.”
Johnny’s eyes twinkled. “Sure, and how about you?” he asked innocently.
“Yes, for I’ve told you all there is to be told. How about you speaking of it to the coach or some one?”
“Gee, I couldn’t!” Leonard protested. “I’m playing on the team, or, anyway, the squad, and it wouldn’t look very well for me to – to prefer charges against another member, now would it?”
Johnny laughed merrily. “I can’t do it because I’m not on the team, and you can’t do it because you are!” Then he sobered. “We’ll leave it as it is,” he decided. “I want to do what’s right, but I don’t know that it would be right to accuse Renneker of this with no real proof to back up the charge with. Besides, if he plays no better game than he’s been playing, ’twill work no injustice to the teams we meet, for, with him out of it, the coach might put in a fellow that would be a sight better.”
“Do you think I’d better say anything to Slim about what happened to-day?” asked Leonard.
“I wouldn’t,” said Johnny dryly. “’Twould only worry him. Slim’s all for sticking his head in the sand, like an ostrich, and there’s no call to be twitching his tail-feathers!”
Leonard had to laugh at that, and no more was said on the subject that evening. In fact, the evening was about gone. At the front door, Johnny, bidding the caller “Good night,” added a bit wistfully: “’Twas fine of you to come and see me, Grant, and I appreciate it. I’d be liking it if you’d come again some time.”
“Why, I liked it myself,” laughed Leonard from the steps. “And I surely will come again. And, say, why don’t you ever come and see Slim and me?”
“Well, I don’t know,” answered Johnny. “Maybe I might some time.”
“I wish you would,” Leonard assured him. “We’re almost always at home evenings.”
Going on down the hill, Leonard reflected that the probable reason why Johnny had never called at Number 12 Haylow was that he had never been asked.
The doors were still open when Leonard reached Haylow, but ten o’clock struck just as he was climbing the stairs. In Number 12 the light was burning and in the bed at the left Slim was fast asleep, a magazine spread open across his chest. Leonard set about preparing for slumber with stealthy movements. Perhaps he need not have taken so much trouble, though, for when he inadvertently knocked a French dictionary from the corner of the table and it fell with a slam loud enough to make him jump an inch off the floor Slim didn’t even stir. It was not until Leonard was in his pajamas that his gaze happened on a half-sheet of paper pinned squarely in the middle of his pillow. He held it to the light and read:
“If I’m asleep when you return
Then wake me up, I pray,
For there is something that I yearn
2 you 2 night 2 say.”
Leonard smiled and turned doubtfully toward the sleeper. It seemed too bad to awaken him. Whatever it was that he had to tell could doubtless wait for morning. Still, Slim never had any trouble getting to sleep, and so —
“Wake up, Slim!” Leonard shook him gently. Slim slumbered on. “Slim! Here, snap out of it! Hi, Slim!” Slim muttered and strove to slip away from the rough, disturbing grasp. “No, you don’t! You wanted to be waked up, and I’m going” – shake – “to wake you up” – shake – “if it takes all night!” Slim opened his eyes half an inch and observed Leonard with mild interest. Then:
“That you, General?” he muttered.
“Hold on! What was it you wanted to say to me, you silly coot?”
“Come awake a minute. You left a note on my pillow – something you wanted to say to me – remember?”
“Yes,” answered Slim sleepily.
“Well, say it then!”
“I did. That was it.”
“What was it?”
Slim turned his back and pulled the clothes up over his ears.
MR. CADE MAKES AN ENTRY
The next afternoon when Leonard clumped down the steps of the gymnasium clad for practice a gust of cold air swept around the corner from the north-west and reminded him that November was two days old. The sky was gray and clouds sailed low overhead. Fallen leaves played prankishly along the walks and eddied into quiet harbors about the buildings. After the warm, moist air of the locker room the outdoor world felt chill indeed, and Leonard, trudging briskly toward the gridiron, rolled his hands in the edge of his old sweater. It was a day, though, that made the blood move fast and called for action. Leonard, to use his own phrase, felt full of “pep.” They couldn’t work a fellow too hard or too fast on such an afternoon.
Practice went off at a new gait, and when, routine work over, those who had played through Saturday’s game were released and Mr. Fadden’s charges romped over from the second team gridiron, every one knew that fur was going to fly. And fly it did. A fellow had to work and keep on working just to be comfortably warm, but besides that there was a quality in the harshly chill wind that would have made an oyster ambitious and put speed into a snail. The second started in with lots of ginger and smeared up Carpenter’s run-back of the kick-off, and after that held the first and made her punt from her twenty-two yards. After that it was hammer-and-tongs, the rival coaches barking out directions and criticisms and hopping about on the edge of the scrap in the most absorbed way. If every one hadn’t been too much interested with the battle the spectacle of Mr. Fadden hopping might have occasioned amusement!ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
ñòðàíèöû: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17